Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Day at Hobbit Gardens

Our wonderful Vice President for Education
set up a field trip for our Master Gardener group.

This trip was to Hobbit Gardens outside of 
Fillmore, Indiana.

Hobbit Gardens is an organic herb farm
owned and operated by Constance Ferry.
 Hobbit Gardens was organic before
organic was hip.

We did our part to help save the planet
and carpooled up to Hobbit Gardens.
It was about an hour and a half drive from the 
north side of B-town.

We drove through a few snow squalls on our way there.
There was even snow on the ground as we finally turned
into the gravel lane that led us to Hobbit Gardens.

 We arrived at 10 am.

Sadly, the gardens are asleep,
although Constance assured us that she has been
able to harvest feverfew near the house all winter long,
due to the mild weather.

 The herb garden.

I would love to see this in season.

we could smell the thyme as we walked past.

 Inside the shop.

 It was cool in the shop.

We were served lunch - a vegetarian lunch.

Lunch was a mixed salad topped with flax seed, chopped parsley,
and a tahini vinaigrette.
We were also served homemade whole wheat bread 
and red grapes.

Dessert, if you will, was rose petal scones with rose hip jam.

Delicious and all organic.

So what did we learn?

Only 1/32 of the surface of the earth is used to grow 
 all the food for all
the population of the planet.

It takes 100 years to create 1 inch of top soil.

The number one job of a gardener should be
to Grow Soil!
If you do that, you will have a healthy and vibrant garden.

We need pest insects so that we can have 
beneficial insects in our gardens.
So, don't use insecticides!

Organic gardening "stores" energy in the earth.

Use green grass clippings 
(as long as no chemicals have been applied to the grass)
as mulch around tomatoes and pepper plants
as the this mulch will heat the soil and make the plants happy.

Only buy cold pressed or expeller pressed olive oils.

When you fertilize and/or water plants,
you make the plants dependent upon those things.
Doing these things creates weaker plants.
And Gardening is never benign.
We are always changing nature by the very act of gardening.

We left at 3:30 pm.
It was a lovely day,
spent with wonderful people.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lunch at the University Club

Last week we had yet another luncheon at the
Indiana University Club at the IMU.
This time our guest speaker was Doug Booher,
the Director of IU Auditorium.

Mr. Booher told us how they go about bringing all the
wonderful shows to the auditorium.
Some of this season's offerings were
Jon Stewart, Good vs Evil, Stomp,
South Pacific, Young Frankenstein,
and Bernadette Peters.

Lunch, as always, was superb.
We started off with a spinach berry salad.
Obviously the berries in question were strawberries.
The dressing was a strawberry vinaigrette.

The entree was turkey with sherried mushrooms au jus,
brown rice pilaf, asparagus, and mushrooms.

The vegetarian option was an Idaho baker with
mushroom artichoke ragu served with seasonal vegetables 
and roasted sweet red peppers.

Dessert was grilled angel food cake with mixed berries.

I loved how grilling changed the flavor of the angel food cake.

IMU Catering did a terrific job, as always.

A lovely spring bouquet graced the center of the table.
It was a delightful luncheon
and we had a wonderful time.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Potato and Panko Crusted Shrimp 

My regular readers know that I often draw inspiration 
from my friend and fellow food blogger,
Rosie Hawthorne, of Kitchens Are Monkey Business fame.

Such is the case for the dinner in this post.
 A while back Rosie had posted about her new breading for shrimp.

 I was intrigued.

Of course I had to run out and buy some instant potatoes
so I could try this recipe.

Potato and Panko Breaded Shrimp

1/4 cup Instant potatoes
1/4 cup Panko
1 egg
2 tablespoons Half and Half
18 large shrimp
salt and pepper

Peel and devein the shrimp.  Salt and pepper the shrimp.  Set aside.

Heat oil to 350 degrees.

Add the Half and Half to the egg and beat together.

Mix together the instant potatoes and the Panko.

Dip the shrimp into the egg mixture and then into the breading.  Fry a few shrimp at a time, being careful to not overcrowd the pan.  These will cook in one to two minutes per side.  Do not overcook!  Take out and drain on a paper towel before serving.

 These are some more of our beautiful shrimp from Fabian Seafood.

 Sauteed sugar snap peas with onion and bacon
accompanied the shrimp.

Sugar snap peas, rinsed and ends cut off
onion, large chop
fully cooked bacon, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Saute the onion and bacon in a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.  Add the sugar snap peas and cook for a couple more minutes, or until heated through.  Salt and pepper, to taste.

 I was making two separate meals this particular evening,
so this was just one serving.

Later I did this all over again.

And dinner was served.

Sweet chili aioli was the perfect dipping sauce for the shrimp.

Many thanks to Rosie Hawthorne for her excellent recipe!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shrimp and Strawberry Spinach Salad

We still have a stash of our lovely Gulf Coast shrimp 
that we had purchased
last season from Fabian Seafood.

When we know the Foodie Boyfriend won't be around,
as he is allergic to the crustaceans (poor Foodie Boyfriend),
I pull a package of the already cleaned 
and properly portioned shrimp out of the freezer
and let them thaw in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

 A couple of weeks ago we opted to have a spinach salad
with shrimp and out-of-season strawberries.

The ingredients for this dish were:
18 large shrimp, de-shelled (never freeze shrimp without their shell)
red onion, sliced
praline pecans
sliced strawberries
baby spinach
1/4 cup F.R.O.G. (Fig, Raspberry, Orange, Ginger) preserves*
2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

*Or use any preserves of your choice.

Season the shrimp and quickly saute in olive oil over medium high heat.
Remove from the heat before you think they are cooked through.  They will still be slightly translucent, but will finish cooking off the heat.

Clean the spinach and arrange on the plates.  Slice a bit of the onion and scatter on top with the pecans and the shrimp.  Slice a couple of large strawberries and rinse them before arranging on top of the salads.

Mix together the preserves, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of sea salt, a pinch of black pepper, and enough olive oil, drizzled in while whisking, to make a dressing.  Pour over the salad and serve.


 Delightful and different.

Monday, February 20, 2012

 Good vs Evil:
An evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert

Last Thursday evening the Foodie Girls
went to see Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert
in the show Good vs Evil at the IU Auditorium.

Eric Ripert was the Good
while Anthony Bourdain was the Evil,
and played the part of the Devil's advocate
with relish.

These two unlikely friends opened the show by taking turns
grilling each other, 
asking pointed and often embarrassing questions.
The answers were honest and often just as embarrassing.

Just so you know, this was not a child-friendly venue.
Anthony can out-swear a sailor
and you will find out that truffle oil is better used
as a personal lubricant than a cooking oil.
And now we all know - whether we wanted to or not.


After that,
the two gentlemen visibly relaxed, took more comfortable seats,
popped open beers,
and began discussing all things food.

They finally closed the show out with a Question and Answer
segment; taking questions from the audience.

It was obvious that both chefs were enjoying themselves.
It was also quite obvious that the audience had fun listening to 
the two men chat, pontificate, and sometimes rant.

What did we learn?

Eric Ripert dislikes rude chefs and
believes that a professional kitchen can be run well
without the executive chef screaming and swearing
at the help.
He even asked that the house lights be raised so that
he could ask for a show of hands from the audience:
"How many of you like to go into work and be
screamed at and bullied by your boss?"
Point taken.

The Grand Tasting Menu with wine
Eric Ripert's four star restaurant in New York City,
will set you back $325 per person.
Eric believes strongly in being responsible stewards 
of our planet as we are merely visitors here.

Anthony posed a hypothetical question for Eric:
suppose there is one Blue Fin tuna left on Earth
and the Japanese have killed it.
Not only is it the last Blue Fin tuna,
but it is the very best Blue Fin tuna.
Would you eat some of it?
Eric adamantly said no,
he would not and could not.
Anthony said F**k that,
he's eating that fish.
I have to say that I agree with Anthony on this.
The fish is already dead at this point.
I would hope that a few cells had been saved so
the fish could be cloned, though.

Chef Ripert would never have hired Anthony Bourdain
as a chef at his restaurant.
Anthony laughed and agreed that he was never 
a good enough chef to work at Le Bernardin.

Anthony bristles when asked if he is qualified
to be a judge on Top Chef,
given that he isn't good enough to compete on the show.
His counter is that after spending the last
several years eating his way around the world,
he knows if a "risotto is (expletive deleted) good or not."

Anthony Bourdain spends about 250 days a year
on the road and adores his young daughter and wife.

Anthony firmly believes that as a guest,
you should always eat what you are given and
be thankful for the food and gracious to your host.

Anthony also believes that we should eat more
organically grown foods.

Anthony is hopping mad about the hypocrisy of
Paula Deen pushing her unhealthy take
on Southern food, while hiding the fact that 
she had Type II diabetes until she sealed
a deal with a drug maker to hawk a 
diabetes medicine.

He is very concerned about the rising rate 
of obesity in America.

During the Q & A segment,
the chefs were asked whether one should
go to culinary school first or just start working 
in a restaurant if one wants to become a chef.

Eric answered that one should not believe
that one is a chef after coming out of 
culinary school.  
One still needs the experience of the kitchen.

Anthony replied that before going to culinary school,
spend a year in the kitchen so you can be sure
that being a chef is what you really want to do
before you spend the money for school.
Also, one should be in good physical condition.

And both agreed that one shouldn't expect 
to become rich and famous if one becomes a chef.

When asked what is American Cuisine,
Eric said that it is fusion cooking, 
a mixture of all the foods from all the other countries.
Anthony answered that it is what we are 
cooking now.
It isn't what our great-grandparents
or even our grandparents made.

All in all,
it was an evening filled with laughter
as well as insights into the world of food
and the minds of these two very different men.

The Foodie Daughter and I also had purchased
VIP tickets to the after-show backstage party.

Hors d-oeuvres were provided by 

A cash bar was set up for those who wished to drink.

Books by the chefs were available for sale 
and the gentlemen were seated at a table,
ready to sign autographs.

The Foodie Daughter had a tiramisu ice cream
and I tried some meats and cheeses 
from a charcuterie board.  
The meats were from Smoking Goose,
a meat shop in Indianapolis.

I then purchased the book
Avec Eric, by Eric Ripert
and the book Medium Raw,
by Anthony Bourdain.

The Foodie Daughter very nicely stood in the autograph line
for me while I waited in the food line for Restaurant Tallent.

I decided to be brave and try my first raw oyster.

It was good and I would do it again!

I didn't take any pictures of the food as the lighting was so poor
and it was very crowded.

I joined my daughter in line and we chatted while we waited.

And there they are.

Look, we're on stage!

Finally we got to meet Anthony and Eric.
They both were gorgeous and gracious.
I got both books signed 
and the Foodie Daughter got her program autographed.

We then got our picture taken with the two men.
I have to admit that I don't remember much after
shaking hands with Anthony Bourdain.
I think I also shook hands with Eric Ripert?
I do recall telling both men that they just had
to come back to B-town and try out the restaurant scene
some time.
Le sigh.
It was a wonderful evening and I had so much fun.

The Light Totem stands outside
the Indiana University Art Museum.

Another light column inside the atrium.

The art museum was designed by 
world-renowned architect, I. M. Pei.

The Light Totem reflects colored lights
 against the facade of the Art Museum.

Many thanks to my dear husband for paying for the evening
and to the Foodie Daughter for putting up with me.
I was, as she put it, "like a child in a candy store."
I think she was ready to ground me.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ham - a Lot!

We are finally finishing up the last of the second ham.
As I didn't wish to bore you this time around
with a blow by blow description of every ham dish,
I thought I would just do a round up of the different
ham dishes that I made this time.

Besides ham sandwiches and ham salad - a lot of it,
I made a few different dishes using ham.

 One evening for dinner
I made a frittata with some of the ham.

 Since I've done this before,
I'll skip the steps this time.
You can check the steps out here.

 Pair this with a salad and this is a nice dinner.

 Another evening I decided to make ham two ways.
I made the standard Harvest Potato recipe,
but I added some ham to the mix.

Then I sliced some of the ham,
added some canned pineapple,
and mixed the syrup with an equal amount of 
brown sugar.

After pouring the mixture over the ham,
I covered the baking dish with foil
and put this in the oven with the potatoes
for the last half hour.

The remaining ham was trimmed of all the fat
and skin and then chopped and made into
ham salad.
As the ham was rather salty,
I added a bit of sugar to the ham salad
to counteract the saltiness.

Only three cups of ham salad left
and then we can finally say good bye to this ham!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cubed Steak with Mushroom Gravy

One of my husband's favorite dishes
when we were newlyweds,
oh so many moons ago,
was a dish that his lovely mother called 
Fried Steak and Gravy.

This is essentially cubed beef steak that has
been dusted in flour and then browned in oil over 
medium high heat.  Add water and simmer for about half an hour. 
When ready to serve, remove the meat.
Put 1 cup milk into a shaker and add salt 
and 3 large tablespoons of flour.
Shake until well mixed and 
pour into hot broth and drippings from steak.
 Cook on medium heat to thicken,
stirring off and on.
Cook until the gravy bubbles and you know
it is as thick as it will get.

This is one of my father-in-law's favorite meals.*

*And you just got a bonus recipe.
Now thank my dear mother-in-law.

Like father, like son:
My husband loves any kind of dish like this.

Well, I have news for him.
I have updated this dish, just for him.

And the odd thing was that the latest incarnation 
for this dish came together 
based on what was on clearance at the grocery store.
Note the clearance prices.

The ingredients:

4 beef cubed steaks
2 small portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon onion, minced
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon dry sherry, not shown
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt*
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus extra flour for dredging the cubed steaks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
extra virgin olive oil, for sauteing

*This amount assumes that the stock does not contain salt.  As always, taste, taste, taste!

Dredge the cubed steaks in the extra flour and shake off the excess.  Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium high heat.  Add the steaks and saute until cooked through.  Remove from heat and keep warm.

Add more oil to the pan and add the sliced portabellas.  Give the mushrooms a few minutes to caramelize before turning over.  Add the minced onion.  Add the beef stock, sherry, black pepper, and salt.  Add the meat back to the pan and cook for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, knead together the softened butter and the 2 tablespoons flour.  This is a messy business and you will begin to wonder if it will ever work, but then suddenly it does!  But then you have to figure out how to get all that butter and flour mixture, otherwise know as a buerre manie (kneaded butter), off your hot little fingers.  Heh, good luck with that!  Oops, did I write that out loud?  Okay, so grab a silicon spatula and wipe it off as best you can.

Remove the meat from the pan once more.  Then toss that buerre manie into the sauce like it's a grenade and whisk away until it is incorporated into the sauce and the whole thing has come together.  Add the steaks back into the sauce and reduce the heat to low and cover.

The steaks have finished cooking.

As have the mushrooms.

This is when you really need smell o vision, er smell o internet.

The finished dish.  The one steak, sans shrooms, is for the Foodie Daughter.  She hasn't yet embraced the shrooms. 

This was a lovely and a delightful meal.

And my dear husband thanked me more than once.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

More Snow

For the second time in a week,
we got snow.

Not the 1 to 3 inches promised,
but it is white.

 Once again I went outside to take pictures
for my readers who miss the white stuff.

 The garden looks inviting even in winter.

 The echinacea have dollops of snow on the seed heads.

I don't clear out my garden in the fall
as I firmly believe in giving the wildlife
haven during the winter months.

The birds and small mammals need food and shelter from
predators and beneficial insects need vegetation
so that they can overwinter and emerge in the spring.


Something has been walking along the garden path.

Enjoy, my snow-loving readers!

P. S.  By mid afternoon, most of the snow had already melted.
It's a Dutch Baby, Baby!

I recently watched Ina Garten,
of Barefoot Contessa fame,
her Food Network show.
However, her recipe requires one to have
four individual gratin dishes,
which I don't.

I did know that what she made
were essentially individual Dutch Babies,
or oven pancakes,
so I turned to Alton Brown's recipe for a Dutch Baby.

 The players:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
2 3/8 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1/2 cup
3 tablespoons vanilla sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup half and half, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature

Toppings, not shown:
strawberries, macerated with granulated sugar
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven.  Set the remaining tablespoon of melted butter aside to cool slightly.  Wait 10 minutes before assembling the other ingredients.

Place the flour, vanilla sugar, salt, milk eggs, and remaining tablespoon of melted butter into the bowl of a food processor or blender and process for 30 seconds.  Carefully pour the batter into the preheated skillet.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the edges are puffed and brown.  Cut, and serve with the macerated strawberries and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

 If you have a digital kitchen scale, now is the time to use it.  If you don't, then go out and buy one!

 Follow the recipe and carefully pour the batter into the very hot skillet.

 After 30 minutes the Dutch Baby was finished baking.

Serve with strawberries and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.*

This was a hit in the Foodie Household.

*Your favorite berries can be substituted, or maple syrup can even be drizzled over the top.


I still think I'm going to try to find those individual gratin dishes, though.